Days after Starbucks announced it is closing 16 stores due to safety concerns, leaked video showed CEO Howard Schultz saying “America has become unsafe” at an internal meeting on Wednesday during which he accused American leadership of “[abdicating] their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental illness.”
On Monday, Starbucks revealed it is closing 16 stores in cities across the United States, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
“I don’t have to spend too much time on what’s going on in the country and how America has become unsafe, but you all read the press release over the last couple of days about the fact that we are beginning to close stores that are not unprofitable,” Schultz said, according to video of a purportedly internal company meeting obtained by The Post Millennial editor Ari Hoffman.
“It has shocked me that one of the primary concerns that our retail partners have is their own personal safety,” Schultz said, referring to almost 60 discussions with employees. “And then we heard the stories that go along with it about what happens in our bathrooms, the issue of mental illness, the issue of homelessness, and the issue of crime.”
Schultz called Starbucks a “window into America” and noted that stores in every community are being forced to deal with things – like rampant crime and drug use – that they “were not built for.”
“And so we’re listening to our people and closing stores,” he added. “This is just the beginning. There are going to be many more.”
The CEO blamed the store closures on local, state and federal governments who he said have failed in their roles as our nation’s leaders.
“At the local, state, and federal level, these governments across the country, and leaders — mayors and governors, city councils — have abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental illness. We are going to have to refine and transform and modernize many of the things we do to meet the needs of our customers in a very changing operating environment. ” Schultz said.
“I say that, but you need to understand something: despite the challenges of COVID and post-COVID, and the changes in customer behavior,” he added, “the demand for Starbucks coffee by our customers, domestically and around the world, has never been greater.”
The closures and concerns about employee safety come after Starbucks announced in 2018 that anyone could use store restrooms even if they didn’t make a purchase, ABC News reported.
The decision to open restrooms to everyone was made after a Starbucks employee called the police on two black men who were denied bathroom access and asked to leave the store. The men were eventually arrested and later settled with Starbucks.
However, last month, Shultz said the company was rethinking the policy.
“There is an issue of, just, safety in our stores, in terms of people coming in who use our stores as a public bathroom,” Schultz said during a New York Times DealBook event. “We have to provide a safe environment for our people and our customers. The mental health crisis in the country is severe, acute and getting worse.”